The Kingston School of Art and the Window Art Gallery are closed again, in accordance with the stay-at-home order issued by the provincial government. We really hope that we'll be able to start up our spring term by May 8th!
In the meantime, our staff and volunteers are continuing to work away on various exciting projects, including this year's Juried Exhibition, a new 1000 Cranes project, our Trillium Foundation project, hiring a part-time Executive Director, changing our phone/internet provider, and more!
Some of our now cancelled classes are meeting by zoom, and we're beginning to roll out our online programs, including this week's online April Break Art Camp. Watch for more classes and workshops soon, delivered to the comfort and safety of your home!
We're excited to be offering art courses for adults in the summer for the first time this year! Every weekday morning from 9 to noon, a small group of students plus instructor will be setting up in our back studio to work in acrylics or oils, studying portraits or plein air... If you need a warm up to get back into art, consider the popular Art Safari option -- 6 different topics on 6 Monday mornings. Our summer teachers include Bruce St. Clair, Maureen Sheridan, and Nancy Steele. Check out all the details.
The KSOA and the Window Art Gallery are now open again, while abiding by public health protocols.
Courses for small groups of adults are taking place in June, and we'll also be offering, for the first time, adult courses on mornings for 6 weeks in July and August. See all the listings here: https://www.ksoa.info/art-courses-summer-2020.html
Our Summer Art Camps for kids aged 5 to 12 are also running this summer, although with smaller sized classes. The July ones are full already, so if you would like a spot for an August camp, it's best to sign up soon: https://www.ksoa.info/art-courses-summer-2020.html
Thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation for Kingston and Area, the KSOA has been able to research and select a new registration and school management system. The company we have chosen is Amilia, based in Montreal. Even though the KSOA is of course closed at this time, office manager Ilga Weiss and Barb Carr have been learning the complexities of the software and sorting out how to configure the options to best suit our operations.
We are having some remote training sessions from Amilia, and our goal is to go "live" on Tuesday, May 19th! To start with, the courses that will be available for registration on the new system will be the Children's Summer Art Camps, and a few adult summer art courses and workshops. Once we get into August, we will have all the fall term courses on the new system. Exciting times!
When you sign up for a course on the new system, you will prompted to create an account for yourself, which you can use anytime you sign up for subsequent courses. We hope you will find this more convenient than our current system of registration.
We'll send out a notice once we're "live", so you can have a look around the new system. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
. . . the walls are silent. The entries in the Kingston Photographic Club juried exhibition, slated for April, are sitting idly in homes across the city. Or, in my case, gracing the hallway at the foot of the stairs and reminding me, as I pass daily, of my recent trip to rural Guatemala before the current paradigm shift.
When the gallery goes dark, what is a gallery goer/blogger supposed to do? What is there to see, to report on, critique, rhapsodize about? Well, when the gallery goes dark, certain corners of Netflix really start to shine and the Internet lights up in creative ways.
Let’s begin with Netflix. Early on in this era of self-confinement I latched onto a series called “Next in Fashion”. Yes: models, runways, impractical clothing. In a word, frippery. But wait, there are also designers, people who work with colour, contrast, texture, focal points, mood and harmony. Furthermore, they are talented sewers and pattern makers; they know their materials inside out; they elaborate on themes; their designs are expressions of their personal aesthetics. They are, in short, artists. OK, I know, Next in Fashion is a competition that slowly eliminates contestants, but along the way, I began to understand the artistry of fashion design and, much to my surprise, was completely drawn in. I, along with the designer hosts, actually gasped when the outrageous but stunning “show-stopper”—designed by the winning contestant—appeared on the runway, itself an artistic amalgam of lighting and projected images in keeping with the theme. The overall effect was mesmerizing and made total sense in the context of this art form and the challenges the fashion world presents.
One happy by-product of my immersion in this series was a foray into the Internet’s virtual world of fashion, more specifically, the collection of clothes and accoutrements worn by Frida Kahlo, which had for years been hidden away in La Casa Azul, her family home in Mexico City, now the Frida Kahlo Museum. A number of exhibitions of her clothing have since been mounted. Frida’s White Cabinet appeared there in 2012. Here’s a peek at a short video:
In 2018 the Victoria and Albert Museum in London mounted Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up. Here’s a video link:
Another short video gives us a glimpse behind the scenes to show how mannequins were designed for this exhibition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=RDCMUCmaflrfppKNfq8uuZVZZxQg&v=_YTsZkV-lqA&feature=emb_rel_end
And, finally, a link to Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving, mounted by the Brooklyn Museum in 2019. This video documents gallery goers’ responses to the exhibition. Notable is how we perceive fashion as an expression of personality, politics and aesthetics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWKSEvgAR58
Closer to home, on the Digital Agnes site, Dr. Jacqueline N. Coutré, former Bader Curator and Researcher of European Art (now Eleanor Wood Print Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture before 1750 at the Art Institute of Chicago), tells us about Ruth and Naomi, painted by Jan Victors in 1653 at the height of the Dutch Golden Age. Dr. Coutré’s enthusiastic, clearly articulated discourse gives gallery goers interested in historical narratives and the Rembrandt school a concise description of the Old Testament story behind the painting, as well as interesting details about the image.
For francophones and francophiles, the Grand Théâtre Québec presents Règne artificiel IV in its new exhibition venue, Le Studio. Artist Rosalie D. Gagné’s inventive installation marries sculpture and technology to produce a subtly interactive atmospheric work that makes full use of the space, which is located in the largest theatre in Quebec City, where in safer times musical, dance and theatrical performances take place.
Lastly, a quick click on “Home” above, will take you to the Kingston School of Art main site, where you can watch the Art Share slide show highlighting student work on the theme of "Home." (Pictured here is Robin’s Nest.)
The WAG is dark, but now seems like a good time to send a shout-out to volunteers David Bird and Amanda Hobson, whom you may have seen at times manning the office, as well as Ilga Weiss, KSOA administrative assistant, at the moment working from home, but in normal times a good-humoured presence in the gallery office every weekday morning.
“Photography means writing with light,” Andrew Sims reminds me as we stand in the WAG talking about his work: nine images shot at night while he was a passenger in a taxi hurtling down the 401. The long-exposure photographs, defined by their erratic electric lines, do indeed convey a message, one of urgency. The trip Andrew was making involved a time crunch, and only when he arrived at the endpoint, could he produce an image expressing calm. In Destination we recognize a parked cab, its interior an eerie green, its passenger door open, in an urban setting, but atmospherically still a part of the race.
“Taking photos is self-therapy,” says Andrew, who has exhibited in numerous local juried shows and three solo shows. When making images he looks for emotional impact. Travelling Light, the largest photograph in the show, and the title piece, derives its impact from intense blue and red markings that provide a hazy background for crisp white and grey lines traversing the image, some boldly jagged, some smooth as wavelengths, others converging into a calligraphic scribble.
“Look how this red line appears as a dotted line,” marvels Andrew. He himself could never have predicted the outcome of his photography on that night. Through his lens (and aided by the speed of the vehicle in which he found himself) we see cars, trucks and lights distorted beyond recognition. In addition, because Andrew had set his camera to HDR (high-density range), each photograph is actually an amalgam of three photographs taken in very quick succession, duplicating and overlapping with the movement of the taxi, and themselves creating the effect of movement. What amazes in these abstract images is that a drive along what is the monotony of the 401 can produce such variety and excitement.
Travelling “light” could also be interpreted to mean, metaphorically, “without earthly constraints.” Ascension in Pairs does indeed show a great textured swath swirling upwards. Likewise, the erratic lines in all of the images convey a lightness of movement, to the extent that Andrew has named one of the images Dancing Lights. Only one photograph—Dimensional—succeeds, for the most part, in containing its energy in a tightly textured cube-like shape floating on the picture plane.
Sharing the gallery walls with Andrew are three images by his friend Alan Clark. Both artists express a passion for creative photography, and both do a minimum of post-production, thereby letting the photographs speak for themselves.
Alan captured his images of orbs in motion during a photo session organized by the Kingston Photographic Club. He has been a member of the club for 11 years but has been taking pictures since the age of 6, when his mother gave him a point-and-shoot camera because she realized that he just wasn’t noticing things. Now Alan is ever observant, conscious of the visual richness he is being offered daily.
For Andrew, meanwhile, the camera can be considered an extension of his body—ever at the ready.
Travelling Light goes from March 4-29.
The past 12 months have been a period of productivity and growth for Erin Eardley. “Through My Eyes” is the artist photographer’s first solo exhibition. Of the 74 works currently on display at the WAG, only three were executed before February 2019.
What changed a year ago? Erin tells me she had a kind of spiritual epiphany. It felt to her as though she was in the care of a divine presence. I detect a sense of relief as she says this. She later explains that, until then, all aspects of her life were ruled by fear. I understand that her experience of February 2019 made her feel safe, which in turn led to a growing self-confidence and feeling of self-worth. And along with these came an acceptance of vulnerability. A solo exhibition—especially a first—is nothing if not a display of vulnerability, but also a decisive foray into risk-taking.
Erin started art classes when she was a young child. “I was always thinking creatively,” she says. While her career path led to interior design, she continued to make art, working in collage, acrylic and pastel. She also enjoyed travel, which gave her the opportunity to develop her photographic skills. But she never considered exhibiting her work.
“Through My Eyes” demonstrates two strains of creativity: mixed media collages that express emotional states, and experimental photographic manipulations. The former make reference to very personal experiences involving friendship and reconnection to family. They present as large 3-D compositions incorporating found images, trinkets gathered over a lifetime, and significant text, “gratitude”, “hope” and “grace” among the words interwoven through the surface elements.
Erin’s photographs, on the other hand, appear in sizes varying from huge to tiny. A few are traditional, but most are altered to take on more painterly qualities, or to astonish with heightened colour saturation. Interestingly, some of the photos are details of the mixed media works in the show. The majority, however, represent manipulations of old images taken during earlier trips to Quebec City, Spain, Greece and Mexico. Traditional and manipulated photos of Erin’s most recent trip, a 10-day 260-kilometre walk from Porto, Portugal, along the Camino de Santiago, also form part of this group. “Everything has a memory,” says Erin, referring to the events and experiences she has documented in order to arrive at the present moment.
THROUGH MY EYES runs from Feb. 5 to Mar. 1, with an opening reception on Sunday, Feb. 9, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
When Nan Yeomans died in 2004 at 81, she wanted her modest estate—comprised primarily of artworks—to benefit the community that she felt had served as her family.
Co-executor Mary Ann Higgs explained Nan’s intentions to me one afternoon last week as we were sitting in the WAG surrounded by Nan’s artwork. One thousand dollars each would go to 10 organizations of which she had been a member, organizations as diverse as the Rideau Trail Association and the Kingston chapter of the Canadian Hearing Society. The balance would go to the Community Foundation of Kingston and Area (CFKA), who would establish a bursary in support of aspiring artists or artisans. In 2008 the Nan Yeomans Fund was set up to this end, with the CFKA as administrator. The recipient is chosen by the Kingston Arts Council. This year, the 11th year of the fund’s existence, the $2500 bursary will be awarded on December 16. The proceeds of the Gala for Nan, at the WAG on December 5, will be shared equally by the KSOA and the CFKA.
Nan Yeomans was a well-known and well-loved presence in the Kingston arts community. Her diminutive stature matched her modest personality, but belied the fierceness of her dedication to her artistic practice. When she arrived in Kingston in her mid-20s from her home on the farm north of the city, she attended summer courses and then evening courses at Queen’s, studying painting and drawing under André Biéler and Carl Schaefer. As an artist she worked in various media, but in 1953 her interest in printmaking blossomed. Subsequent courses at St. Lawrence College gave her access to presses, expensive but indispensable pieces of equipment. When the college closed, Nan followed the printing presses to the KSOA. Her artistic output, prodigious as it was, led to three solo exhibitions--at the Agnes, the Modern Fuel and the Kingston Frontenac Library--as well as submissions to fundraisers and arts festivals.
Aware of her successes (and also failures), Nan, without fanfare, considered herself better than the average hobby artist. In a 2004 video entitled Under My Shell, made by Val Westgate, former curator at the Agnes Jan Allen praises her “high level of accomplishment”. After Nan died, the Agnes bought her watercolours dating from 1949-1951.
Nan’s meticulous approach to everything served her well. To earn a living, she worked as a bookkeeper and accountant, sometimes offering her services pro bono to organizations of which she was a quiet and constant member. Nan understood the financial struggles of community groups, and artists in particular. In her own small apartment, her bedroom served as a studio while she slept on the couch, with only her beloved turtle Tommie for company.
When executor Mary Ann Higgs considered the format of the Gala for Nan fundraiser, one of several that have benefitted the Nan Yeomans Fund, she wanted to do it in a way that Nan would approve. Thus the gala supports the artistic community and offers the public the opportunity, included in the ticket price of $100, to get first pick from among Nan’s remaining framed pieces. Also on sale are matted and unmatted artworks, which, if purchased, include a $35 gift certificate for framing. Each attendee can bring one guest with the same ticket.
The Gala for Nan exhibition includes mixed media drawings, watercolours, etchings, collages and embossed images dating from the 1940s to the 1990s. They cover a wide range of subject matter—sometimes historical, sometimes realistic, sometimes whimsical. Also on offer during the event are wine, charcuterie and live music. The aforementioned video and a printmaking demonstration will run concurrently in the KSOA studios.
GALA FOR NAN takes place Thursday, December 5, from 5-8pm.
For more information about the Nan Yeomans Fund, and to view a selection of the artwork in the exhibition: nanslegacy.com
This month, once again, the WAG provides a venue for the work of printmakers with very different aesthetics.
As I look at the exhibition I’m struck by how every back wall dedicated to a single artist tells a story. Wendy Cain evokes sea- and landscapes by combining paper pulp printing with screen printing to produce textured, tonal images in black and white with distinct focal points. The stars of Rebecca Cowan’s drypoint prints are ordinary objects such as shoes and upholstered chairs. Margaret Bignell explores texture and movement in her monotypes with string and coarsely woven scraps of fabric. Barb Carr’s monotypes—contemplative landscapes—contrast sharply with those of Fanny Cecconi, which explode with colour. Closer to the front of the gallery Elizabeth Pulker’s series of six collages juxtaposes flat black with cut-out printed elements to create compositional variety.
While the WAG showcases framed prints by these and other artists—works that also include collographs, nature prints on fabric and relief prints—in the KSOA front studio I witness works in progress by some of the artists in the show. The Friday morning printmaking open studio is in full swing and five artists are spread around the room, working on ideas for monotypes and linocuts.
Someone has brought in a paper wasp’s nest, which Fanny finds intriguing. She also has her eye on a piece of raffia that could add interest to a small abstract print, which she has already given a number of passes through the press. Barbara Morrow (who has not participated in the current exhibition) is working with Softoleum, a form of lino. While Margaret, the studio co-ordinator, offers her suggestions, Barb gives me a synopsis of a technique she is enjoying—reductive linocut, also called Kamikaze linocut because the final plate, which supports the final colour (there can be as many as five press passes), is mostly cut away. As an aside, she tells me, “You know, the Softoleum is easy to work with but too soft to be put through the press; the paper has to be burnished.” Meanwhile, Jane Hamilton-Khaan is puzzling over rubber overlays that she will use for successive colour applications to create her monotype.
“J’adore!” pipes up Fanny, overcome with enthusiasm for the printmaking process. The atmosphere here is congenial and relaxed. The studio is a space for exchanging ideas, fixing accidents when they happen, trying new techniques and, of course, making use of the presses. Some of the artists in the WAG show have their own press, but for those who don’t, the printmaking open studio provides access to this large, expensive piece of equipment.
“The KSOA also has a printmaking archive,” Margaret reminds us. The archive acts as a resource for the student artists at the school. Margaret brings out an example of a drypoint and before long we are discussing the difference between a chop and a stamp, two forms of print identification, the former an embossing tool, the latter an inked tool.
Then a lively discussion ensues about the difference between a monoprint and a monotype. A monotype is unique. It begins with a smooth plate, usually Plexiglass, to which coloured inks have been applied with a roller. The plate may undergo successive press passes as new colours are added or scraped away, or as colours are blocked. The results can be unexpected. A monoprint, on the other hand, is pulled from a plate with a matrix or underlying image (like a linocut, or woodcut, or etching) that allows the printmaker to be faithful to the image with each pass. But, if the artist decides to vary the colours, a series using the same image can be created. Each print is still a monoprint.
“I think I’ve got it straight,” says Fanny while Margaret goes back to her spot at the table to continue work on a monotype she started earlier.
Kingston Printmakers are Margaret Bignell, Wendy Cain, Barb Carr, Fanny Cecconi, Rebecca Cowan, Kym Fenlon-Spazuk, Judith Gould, Jane Hamilton-Khaan and Elizabeth Pulker.
Hot Off the Press continues until Sunday, November 24, with a reception on that day from 2 to 4pm.
On a beautiful October afternoon several students in Nancy Steele’s Plein Air Painting class gather at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour. The sun is sparkling on the ripples in the water, and there’s a light breeze, not too cold. The first challenge of painting outdoors? Weather (check!). While they bask in the sun waiting for the others to arrive, Nancy talks to her students about the wispy clouds that striate the sky. “You can create that smoky swipe with complementary colours—orange and blue, or even better, purple and yellow.” She then encourages consideration of how the clouds change lower on the horizon. Plein air, a kind of alla prima (meaning “first pass”) painting, requires astute observation.
Challenge number 3 (after parking—check!) gets down to the nitty-gritty: finding a location free of obstacles that artists can commit to for a period of time. As Nancy and I scout out possibilities, she tells me that she lets what nabs her dictate where she might set up. We turn a corner away from the shore when she exclaims, “Look at that! That’s not so bad. “ What she is searching for is a vista, lights and darks, and colour. “That red door is screaming to be painted!”
Nancy, who works in oil, will frame a scene with her hands, then begin a painting by making directional lines in ultramarine and burnt umber, using a dry brush. At this stage she is creating a scaffolding for what she sees (but not the sky, which is constantly changing). Next she will lay on a wash—in effect an under painting—to give shape to the large masses, all the while wiping away paint until she is left with mid-tones.
Form and structure underpin a good plein air painting, stresses Nancy. Not surprisingly, she began her art practice as a potter and then turned to making jewellery and sculptural boxes. She started painting in the 1990s.
As Nancy walks around to offer her students advice, her comments cover a range of ideas, from achieving proportion to refining composition and creating depth. She uses words like direction, relationship, geometry, block, mass, shape, layers.
In her own work Nancy exploits these same ideas while searching for a point of interest. She observes and works through a painting, letting the information grow until she finds her way into a scene. “The focal point shifts,” she concedes.
A couple of Nancy’s students, who agree that working outdoors is a bonus, enjoy the challenge of painting a real scene that is ultimately not static. “Capturing a moment” is how they describe the task, which must be completed in the first pass. Not all student artists find the task to their liking, however. Sky and shadows change too quickly.
When not outside because of inclement weather, Nancy encourages her students to see interesting compositional opportunities in the surrounding arrangements in the KSOA studio-- dishes in the sink, for example, or light and dark patterns on the printmaking machines. This course comprises 10 classes, but students have the option of taking only five, and they can use any paint medium. Being indoors obviates a further challenge, that of setting up tools and easel for comfort and utility under outdoor conditions.
“What is the most difficult aspect of plein air painting?” I ask Nancy. Interestingly, she focuses on two that could equally well be roadblocks in any style of painting. The first involves creating a palette that works. Instead of putting random small dabs of all colours on a water-resistant surface (Plexiglass works well en plein air), Nancy advises organizing colours with cool and warm and light and dark in mind. Just as orderly should be the artistic process, which Nancy breaks down so the emphasis is on only a few elements at a time, in a particular sequence. “Humans are trained to pick up detail in order to be ready for fight or flight. The artist has to discover how to hold detail until the end.”
In September the KSOA offered local artists another opportunity to try their hand at (or continue their practice of) plein air painting during an annual weekend called Paint the Town, which this year took place in Barriefield. Nancy, for her part, is offering an alla prima portrait painting workshop the weekend of October 19-20.
PLEIN AIR INSIDE AND OUT WITH NANCY STEELE ends on November 20.